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Showing posts from March, 2017

Churchill Vs Hitler: Rhetoric and Resurrection of the Raj

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Shashi Tharoor, Author and Indian Politician, has touched a number of raw nerves when he compared Churchill and Hitler, maintaining “Churchill has as much blood on his hands as Hitler does” (See story) in an interview with UK-Asian, an Asian community interest website in Britain, launching his new book, Inglorious Empire  (a catchy title with a whiff of Quentin Tarantino).
While this has now drawn several angry responses (for example, see this one from Zareer Masani), there is little new here. Churchill did preside over a genocide, intentionally diverting food from India and causing a famine to punish insolent Bengalis in 1943, a forgotten affair in Britain (like all other atrocities of the empire), but subject to detailed exploration in Madhusree Mukherjee's Churchill's Secret War, and even more famously and dispassionately, in Amartya Sen's Poverty and Famine. Churchill, the arch-colonialist, had actively participated in various colonial atrocities, starting with Boer …

Stayzilla Case: Should Start-Ups Be Treated Differently?

Stayzilla, an Indian start-up which offered homestays, like AirBnB, is in the news, for wrong reasons. That Stayzilla decided to down shutters would have made it to the trade press, and further, would have signalled to the start-up community that the age of easy investor money is well and truly over. However, the reason why Stayzilla is making national headlines though is because one of its founders has been arrested by the police, for unpaid bills to one of its vendors, and the big ticket start-up entrepreneurs have requested for intervention from the Central Government as this indicates 'India is no place for start-ups'. In the meantime, evidence emerged that the Stayzilla founders threatened the aggrieved vendors with 'dire consequences' if they pursue them and the Court has refused bail to the accused, creating a bigger furore. (See story here)
There are always many sides of stories such as these, and it is best not to hazard guesses about what really happened. Ho…

Remote Work: An Idea That Never Was

Remote Work was once the future. With falling costs of communication, cool technologies and devices that are increasingly capable, and a need for specialised talent that may not be geographically concentrated, there was a lot of reason why Remote Work was logical, not to mention traffic congestion, urban pollution and lifestyle. Every company was expected to go remote - sooner or later - and some of the world's largest and most progressive companies took lead.
But that is now past. This week, as IBM seems to be rolling back remote work and wanting to geographically concentrate at least some of its departments, it is no longer an isolated idiosyncrasy! There is a long line of precedences - the Marissa Mayer moment of banning telecommuting at Yahoo, the Atos moment of banning email at office and encouraging people to people conversation instead, the US Patent Office's jaw-dropping moment of realisation on how widespread the abuse of its WFH system was, and indeed, something tha…

Why Can't Indian Engineers Find A Job And What To Do About It?

We knew this anecdotally: That Engineering graduates can not find a job in India. Now, we have some numbers: AICTE says that 60% of the 800,000 engineering graduates every year remain unemployed. (see story)
The story above gives out some important data points: 
1. That only 15% of the programmes are accredited by the National Board of Accreditation. This means 85% of the Engineering Programmes have no effective quality control.
2. That only 1% of the Engineering Graduates participate in a summer internship. This effectively means that while, in theory, an internship is a part of the programme, in practise most Engineering graduates never participate in one.
Of course, one can read more in this data. The fact that programmes are not accredited means many colleges may be offering a degree without having proper laboratory infrastructure. In a sense, it is some sort of miracle - indicating strong demand - that 40% of the graduates actually find a job, because most would not have touched…

Kolkata 4.0: Creating A New Conversation

Calcutta needs a new start.
The city which I call home has earned a bad name, but its reputational problems have more to do with the politics of India than economic fundamentals.
The city, the second most populous in India after Mumbai, is the third largest city economy in India, presiding over a mostly prosperous agricultural economy and a strategic state. Yet, people don't tend to see it that way: India's geopolitical obsession with Pakistan and Kashmir keeps minds focused on its Western frontiers, and a succession of opposition party governments in West Bengal (the last time Congress ruled the state was in 1977) ensured that the state did not feature in the Central Government's list of priorities. But this is changing - there is increasing realisation of the geopolitical challenges and opportunities of the Indian East - and one would hope that this would bring about a change, if only gradual change, in Indian policy.
But any conversation about change must be rooted in …

Globalization and Anti-Globalization

It is common to hear - Globalization is not working for everyone! The Right says it, and believes that closed societies with open economies is the answer; the Left says it too, though they believe that the solution lies in closed economies with an open society. The Left says that the Right is xenophobic, and the Right says that the Left is living in cuckooland! And, the Right-of-the-Right and the Left-of-the-Left steal the wind from the sails of their clueless moderates, claiming, in consensus, that globalization is the problem, erasing the right-left divide into a new politics of For and Against Globalization.
At least in theory, global trade is good: It should keep the wars away. Stopping trade is the first rumbling of the war, the moment when the possible booty of extraction seems bigger than benefits of exchange. And, this is not just about flows of goods and money: Flow of people too, since when people started to matter in politics, is important in reducing conflicts. Once you h…

Career Indulgences and Getting Real

I am sure 'career indulgences' appears an oxymoron, there can't be such a thing!
But in my quest to do things I love, and also to work with people I like, I have created, at least, the possibility.
At this time, a penny-dropping moment of sorts, I am reflecting when I started indulging in dreams! And, indeed, there are many forkways to look back at, like these:
1. Walking out a secure job and an impending promotion, I jumped on the dotcom boat in 1998: Not many people around me were doing that at the time and I had no idea how to deal with investors and their contracts. 
2. A couple of years later, when the enterprise became boring and investors became bosses, I pursued my dreams of adventure - going to a country in the middle of political turmoil and business decline - and lived through bomb threats, general strikes and all that. 
3. When all that was sorted out and I had won, four years later, I gave up yet another promotion and promises of a predictable life to become …

The British Ruling Classes and Their 20th Century History

Dr Liam Fox, the smooth talking Tory Secretary of International Trade, apparently tweeted, and then denied he 'tweeted', that "the United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history".
"The United Kingdom, is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history" #scc16 — Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFoxMP) March 4, 2016

To be fair, Dr Fox may not know what a 'tweet' is, and this is the work of an excited, unnamed social media intern. His claim that The Guardian twisted his words from an old speech, where he was talking about UK and EU, in a TV interview while the tweet itself was displayed on the screen.
However, there may be a method in this madness. The Tory politics is decidedly one of inauthenticity. Following some 20th Century masters of propaganda, like Joseph Goebbels (I am avoiding the H word) and Benito Mussolini, the strategy is to state…

Why India Needs A New Higher Education

India is in the middle of a great transformation, driven by the aspirations of its young people.
This transformation is apparent to any visitor in India, primarily through its business parks and the towering apartment blocks, its new roads and its omnipresent media, the confidence of its leaders and its street vibe. India, the collective claims, is the country of the future.
And, this focus on the future is playing out in its education system. The country has affected an unprecedented expansion of its education system - unprecedented for India, though following the example of and in a smaller scale than China - particularly in Higher and Vocational education. This is the most exciting part of the transformation:  new education in India is built to create a whole new India, a fresh new future.
This educational transformation, however, needs a new imagination. India's future is unlikely to be like India's past, and even recent past, all those Call Centres and IT Hubs, is unlike…

The Hinduvta Hegemony

Today's election results in five Indian states may or may not be noticed by the world media, but they are, in a way, no less significant than the Brexit vote or Trump's victory in November. These election results indicate a shift in politics of a major country, which India is, with its huge population, growing economy, large military and preeminence among the G20. And, while the 2014 election win of the Bharatiya Janata Party (hereafter, BJP) and Narendra Modi becoming India's Prime Minister was more momentous and newsworthy than these elections, they still complete and confirm the process of change that was underway since.
Admittedly, the results of these elections are mixed. Of the five states that went into poll, Indian National Congress (INC) and BJP, with their respective allies, controlled two states each, and another, the biggest one, was ruled by a large, caste-based, regional party, the Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party, or SP). The BJP has now gained two states a…

Imagine the Enterprise: The Product Question

Here is a conversation in preparation: What have I learnt about Product Development through my years of hustle in my quest to build Education-to-Employment and Education-to-Enterprise pathways?
Three things, essentially.
1. Most Start-Ups fail because they over-engineer the product. 
It is the quest of perfect product that kills most start-ups. Of course, this is what Steven Gary Blank and the conversation around Lean Start-up is all about. 
However, I think this problem is not just about the cost, but about the culture it implicitly builds. One can argue that if the monies are available, costs of product development should not be a huge problem. 
But, even if product development is well resourced, too much focus on it creates a number of other fatal problems: 
First, it makes product introductions really slow, and makes the company fall behind in fast-moving markets. 
Second, and more crucially, this creates an inward-looking culture, where the feedback from clients and sales team a…

Citizen of the World or Citizen of Nowhere?

If Margaret Thatcher's legacy is sealed as "there is no such thing as society", Theresa May may have already given us something to remember her for: "But if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere."
This is, she may claim later, taking her words of out of context. She said, to be exact:  "But if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don't understand what citizenship means." Justifiably, she could claim, at a later and calmer time, that she was merely defining citizenship. However, she meant this to be a soundbite, and it is a good one: And, therefore, it can be taken in its more provocative sense, as it was meant for that.
We are at a day and age where many people may indeed want to think of themselves as citizens of the world. They want to be footloose, live in different countries, have relationships across national boundaries, learn different languages and work in differen…

On The Reckless Mind: Tyranny and Freedom

I have been reading Mark Lilla's The Reckless Mind (New York Review of Books, 2016), which is an insightful portrait of six intellectuals in Politics. Lilla's broad point is that seeking the purity of ideas in the messy practicum of the political world is a hazardous enterprise. This has led - whether inspired by enlightenment reason or by religious passions for a new beginning - to tyranny, or philosophies in the service of tyranny, which Lilla calls 'philotyranny'. In Lilla's vision, the love of ideas, the pure passion, more often than not, turn to ideologies, sacrificing freedom in the quest of a perfection that is both unknowable and unattainable. In this, his ideas are not too far from those of the American pragmatists, John Dewey in particular, for whom ideas turning into ideologies was the cardinal sin of our time.
I came away, however, with another thought: That tyranny is somewhat our original condition, basis of our moral thought. Whether we think in ter…

Comrade Corbyn's Crisis

When facts change.. 
I enthused when Labour Party chose Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. It promised an escape from politics as usual, a break from the smooth-talking career politicians who came to dominate the Labour Party. It heralded an age of authenticity, which was missing from the politics of the left. A break, finally, I thought, from the weather-cock politics of the Blair-Cameron era!
Indeed, it was too good to be true, and I did not trust the Labour Party to change. A Blairite revolt was on the card, and it came almost immediately as posh politicians refused to serve in the shadow cabinet. Almost unbelievably, though, it never stopped - resurfaced again and again, whether in eagerness to bomb Syria or to overturn the members' mandate on the pretext of Brexit - and continued to demonstrate how Labour Party has become an apparatus without a purpose. While the career politicians ploughed on with the fantasist argument that someone else, who the Labour members won't vote for…

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